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The Debt & Personal Finance Blog and Magazine

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Fed's Plan for Dealing with The Mortgage Problem

The Federal Reserve has released it's plan on how to tackle the problems in the American mortgage industry. Here's how I feel about certain bullet points from the Fed's press release:

  • Creditors would be prohibited from engaging in a pattern or practice of extending credit without considering borrowers’ ability to repay the loan.

  • Creditors would be required to verify the income and assets they rely upon in making a loan.

It's a real shame that Alt-A mortgages were abused. I was hoping this financing option would be available to me when I'm ready to buy, since I am self-employed and have undulating income. The way it looks now, ALT-A loans may eventually disappear from the market forever.

FYI: With stated income mortgages, you provide the lender with your social security number so that they can check your credit score, but the lender doesn't require hard proof of income, like a 2 years of tax returns or payment stubs. A stated income home loan is a type of Alt-A mortgage.

  • Prepayment penalties would only be permitted if certain conditions are met, including the condition that no penalty will apply for at least sixty days before any possible payment increase.

Weak! The Fed should simply ban all mortgage prepayment penalties and be done with them. This is one (of many) reason why I like credit unions much more than banks: a federally chartered credit union cannot charge prepayment penalties, ever. The Federal Credit Union Act of 1934 prohibits federally chartered credit unions from assessing prepayment penalties of any type on any loan.

A credit union is a financial institution that's owned by its members. When compared to credit unions, banks tend to offer more services, and they tend approve loans and credit card applications more readily. But credit unions almost always have better interest rates on loans, better yields on savings and certificates of deposit, and reasonable fee schedules. Also, with credit unions, the terms and conditions attached to loans and credit cards are invariably more consumer-friendly.

I like the idea of benefiting from both worlds: I keep my savings in a credit union, and my business checking account with a large bank.

  • Lenders would be prohibited from compensating mortgage brokers by making payments known as “yield-spread premiums” unless the broker previously entered into a written agreement with the consumer disclosing the broker’s total compensation and other facts. A yield spread premium is the fee paid by a lender to a broker for higher-rate loans. The consumer’s written agreement with the broker must occur before the consumer applies for the loan or pays any fees.
This will definitely help. During the height of the mortgage origination frenzy, mortgage brokers would target subprime borrowers with loans that would likely go into foreclosure, so as to make big money with premium spreads.

  • Creditors and mortgage brokers would be prohibited from coercing a real estate appraiser to misstate a home’s value
Fraudulent appraisals were a big part of the problem, and lots of guilty appraisers won't be prosecuted due to lack of evidence. This proposed rule would certainly help to keep appraisers honest.

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